The Tigers pursued virtually every big name free agent on the market, trying to upgrade a team that improved by 29 games in 2004, but was still 18 games under .500.
They made a strong push for Carl Pavano – but he chose the Yankees.
They tried to sign Edgar Renteria – he chose the Red Sox over the Cardinals.
They made overtures to Adrian Beltre – he picked the Mariners.
They wanted Troy Glaus – he signed with Arizona.
They had interest in J.D. Drew – he got more money from the Dodgers.
What's the common denominator with all of those clubs? There's no one thing, but rather a combination that gave players the incentive to sign with those clubs.
Winning. Warm weather. Bustling downtowns. Some of these teams have more than one.
The Tigers? They've got none.
In an offseason where money again became plentiful, the deep-pocketed Tigers had suddenly lost their ace in the hole. And now, with only a few players left on the market, the Tigers are left with just Troy Percival, who albeit is an important addition to a bullpen who struggled mightily and cost the Tigers its share of games.
But, what to do about the lack of interest in the Tigers? When the money becomes negligible, free agents look to the other factors – factors the Tigers are yet to be strong in.
Detroit News beat writer Lynn Henning brought to light the fact that visiting teams currently stay in the Ritz-Carlton in Dearborn, essentially isolating all players from any social area the metro area has.
Henning mentions the Townsend Hotel in downtown Birmingham as a possible alternative. The Royal Park Hotel in downtown Rochester or the Campus Inn in Ann Arbor would also be viable alternatives. But the fact remains, with players staying in Dearborn and only seeing Detroit from Dearborn to Detroit down I-94, they lose out on the view of the upscale parts of Detroit that go unnoticed.
This may be overlooked by some, but can be a huge selling point to players. Troy Percival even stated he had "no idea" Birmingham existed, that there was a nice part of Detroit. And this is speaking of a bustling downtown area in one of the 5 richest counties in America – and Percival didn't even know it existed.
Of course, there is little the team can do about the weather. Detroit is cold. But, so is Boston, New York, and Seattle. And that didn't stop those teams from signing big name free agents this offseason.
Bottom line, the team needs to put a winning ballclub on the field. Without free agents, the only real way to do that is through the farm system – and for 25-plus years now, the Tigers haven't had a strong farm system to stock their big league club.
The offseason isn't yet over, but the Tigers dreams of adding a superstar to the lineup have probably passed. If the Tigers hope to change their fortunes in the future, they need to start showing off the better parts of Detroit. Sell the free agents and their families on the beautiful and upscale neighborhoods of the metro area.
But most of all – build a farm system that will continually stock the big league club – so when the Tigers experience another offseason like this one – they'll have youngsters to fall back on.